Your Next Pair of Canvas Sneakers Should Come With a Serious Dose of Indie Cred
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It’s hardly an exaggeration to say that canvas sneakers are a staple of summer style. Long before they were hardwood classics or a go-to of downtown skater types, their slim profile and knock-around good looks made them a no-brainer warm weather pick. But the main reason they continue to stick around over a century after their inception is their dogged breathability and unbeatably versatility—especially compared to the competition. We dig a pair of swanky leather loafers as much as the next guy, but they ain’t exactly providing optimal airflow when the occasion demands closed-toe footwear. (And if said leather shoes also have hard bottoms, you can kiss the concept of dry feet goodbye.) Suffice to say, we don’t need to convince you of their merits. Hell, you probably own a pair—or five—already.
But you don’t own one of these. Because the clearest indication of the canvas sneaker’s enduring popularity is the sheer amount of brands selling their own riff on the genre right now, from big-name labels you know and love to an emerging crop of lesser-known, sneaker-first imprints churning out the indie kicks of your dreams. And if you’re desperate to avoid a Spider-Man Pointing moment—or just want to rejigger your current summer rotation—the five brands below are the best place to start.
U.S. Rubber Co.
U.S. Rubber Co.’s revolutionary high-tops were invented way back in 1892, long before sneakers in general caught on with the general public—thanks, in part, to a gentleman named Chuck Taylor—but its signature canvas kicks look better than ever. The brand’s streamlined, minimal silhouettes are about as close as it gets to the ideal form of the style. No contrast piping, no colorful logos—just a great looking shoe you can wear all day, every day. We’re partial to the crispy coke-white versions, but if you’re jonesing for sneakers with a little more pep (at least by turn-of-the-century standards), the brand has you covered too.
Stepney Workers Club
Stepney Workers Club borrows its name from a 1920s anti-fascist sport group based in the UK, and its democratically-priced canvas kicks—outfitted with the type of distinct vulcanized soles made popular by brands like Vans and Converse—capture the brand’s zen ethos to a T. A sneaker with that kind of pedigree (and quality construction) for 100 bucks? We can’t quite believe it either.
Stockholm-based Eytys became a fashion crowd favorite by taking familiar sneaker silhouettes and cranking the proportions to 11, which explains the slightly off-kilter look of their Laguna low-tops. The subtle update by the heel goes a long way in making them feel a little more dressed-up, should you decide to bust ’em out with a summer-y linen suit. And if you’re looking for an option with even more chunk, the Odessa significantly ups the heft without veering into moon shoe territory.
Back in the day, slapping rubber soles on a canvas sneaker was downright revolutionary. Today, Nothing New is once pushing the genre to new frontiers, crafting their spin on the silhouette from 100% sustainable materials, including recycled plastic uppers they’ve dubbed Better Canvas™. As its name implies, you still get the same legendary looks of the styles of yesteryear—minus (some of) the guilt when it’s time to re-up on a new pair.
Collective Canvas might be all about going green—like Nothing New, the brand makes its low-key, skate-ready sneakers out sustainable materials—but its bright, summer-friendly options are a standout. The really advanced move here? Scooping two pairs and rocking ’em mismatched (say, one blue, one yellow) for a look that shows you mean anything but business this season.
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